Photo credit: BusinessDayOnline
There are so many negative thoughts and wrong notions about the Nigerian Railway and its corporation and I am sure you must have read one or two articles on how the Nigerian railway system has gone rotten and dead. The narrative is so pervasive that even those who have not seen ordinary rail track will join the critic wagon without bothering to ascertain its truthfulness.
Anyway, against all odds, I decided to board a train on my final departure from a tour of all the Northwestern states late November last year. It was my second trip by train in Nigeria.
The burden of such a long journey from Kano to Ibadan was eased by the fun and exciting experiences I had on the first class coach (there are also second class/economy class coach) of the train.
The 33-hour journey which started on Monday (5:00Pm) and lasted till Wednesday (3:07am) saw our train crossing and stopping in major cities and states like Kano, Kaduna, Niger, Kwara, Osun and Oyo.
The first class coach was fully air conditioned, with comfortable seats and charging points for electronics that made my journey memorable. The movies on my laptop kept me company all through. There is a Bar and Restaurant coach where you can chill on board, and you can also book for a coach called "Sleeper" if you love to sleep all through the journey. Security is tight, considering the heavy presence of mobile policemen and soldiers monitoring all the coaches. For a moment, I felt like a VIP.
I guess you don't know too that train moves fast. The whole journey from Kano to Ibadan would have taken just about 70% of the time we spent if not for the fact that the train had to stop at various stations which resulted in time loss. For instance, the waiting time ranges from 5 minutes to 1 hour for passengers to alight, and to board new passengers at other train stations; and sometimes, it would stop to refuel. It would also stop for people who wish to observe Muslim prayers and for people who want to "freshen up" and eat at the dawn of a new day. Be that as it may, it was still fun all the way.
And yes, it's very cheap, I boarded first class coach for just 4,500 Naira. Second class coach goes for less than 3,000 Naira from Kano to Ibadan. No Payment for load, no extra charges except you are using the cargo part of the train.
So, next time you want to deride our railway system, I’d advise you keep quiet and not say a word until you’ve experienced it yourself.
Victor Oyejide is a Transport Geographer and Travel Consultant. He writes from Ibadan, Oyo State Nigeria. Contact him on +2348162848212 or firstname.lastname@example.org